Why do innovative teachers embrace social media?
Think about the qualities of an effective 21st century educator. You are probably picturing someone who is highly adaptable, constantly inspired, and strongly connected with both students and fellow educators. You can find many teachers with these qualities on social media platforms like Twitter and Pinterest, which are popular online communities that innovative educators use to build a personal learning network, share ideas, discover new technologies, and find inspiration.
Hashtag-happy teachers who prefer verbal communication and seek social networking opportunities often turn to Twitter, where 4.2 million education-related tweets are shared every day, according to EdSurge. More visual-minded and crafty educators, seeking ideas and inspiration, use Pinterest to communicate through photographs and graphic designs. If you consider yourself to be an effective and innovative 21st century teacher, then you are likely a frequent user of one of these platforms and have benefited immensely from using them. Unfortunately, the pros of Twitter and Pinterest have a limited amount of overlap, which leads one to wonder where an educator can go to experience a combination of both.
How can innovative teachers use Instagram?
Enter Instagram (or IG for short), which has over 300 million active users every month. You have probably heard your students talking about tagging, liking, and “Throwback Thursdays,” but you, like many teachers, may be unfamiliar with how powerful of a tool IG can actually be. You can think of the Facebook-owned platform like a constantly updating scrapbook of images portraying the experiences and interests of the people and groups that matter the most to you. IG combines the categorize-by-hashtag system used by Twitter with the image-driven nature of Pinterest to create a place where educators can come to network, share and discover new ideas, and interact with each other on a more personal level.
Instagram's popularity is rapidly growing as the network continues to posture itself amongst the more established social media platforms. When Twitter first showed up, many educators were hesitant to use it for professional reasons. After all, Twitter was a place where people would go to get the latest juicy gossip on Justin Bieber and Kanye West or to follow their favorite professional athletes. But it was not long before educators realized that they could choose which accounts they followed and had control over the people or groups that they were networking with. The same realization is happening right now with Instagram. Yes, Justin Bieber is on there, but you don’t have to follow him or any other person or group that does not interest you.
At this point, you may find yourself entertaining the tired thought that you simply do not have the time to learn how to use another social media platform. That reluctance is understandable, but it is important for effective 21st century teachers to be adaptable, especially in our ever-evolving educational landscape. The good news is that IG is one of the easiest social media platforms to learn—in fact, you will be able to use Instagram within moments of your first login, which is one of the reasons why it has become so popular. If you are looking for an explicit guide to getting started, this Instagram Cheat Sheet by Gear & Style will get you up and running in no time.
Teachers utilize the power of social media in many different ways, but we are all driven by the goal of growing as educators. Here are 7 specific ways that you can use Instagram to make yourself a more effective teacher:
1.) Networking With Other Educators
Innovative teachers want to build large and diverse personal learning networks and Instagram is a great place for you to find like-minded educators and groups to connect with. There are thousands of inspiring and insightful teachers on IG and using hashtags like #TeachersFollowTeachers or #TeachersOfInstagram will help you to find them.
Check Out: @TeachingSpecialThinkers focuses exclusively on Special Education.
2.) Follow Education Groups
Teachers can learn about new technologies, lesson ideas, and recent studies by following popular education groups on IG. Similar to Twitter, following the right accounts can expose you to all of the things going on in education. You can use #education for a general search, but you can also use something specific like #STEM or #edtech as well.
Check Out: @Edutopia focuses on general education tips and inspiration.
3.) Learn More About Your Content Area
Instagram is a great place to interact with content-area-specific pages. These pages share posts that follow a theme like @NatGeo for geography and world events, @ASAPscience for science, and @MashUpMath for mathematics education.
Check Out: @MashUpMath focuses on math tips, challenges, and insights.
4.) Showcase Student Work
Lets face it: you are an amazing and creative teacher. You put tons of effort into planning engaging activities for your students. Shouldn’t you be sharing your awesomeness with the world? Well, on Instagram you can—and this kind of sharing between teachers is nothing short of inspiring.
Check Out: @WhatTheTeacherWants focuses on showcasing student work.
5.) Express Yourself
You are more than just a teacher. Instagram is fun because you can gain a closer and more personal look into the lives of the people that you care about. Go ahead and share some posts about you. What book are you currently reading? What restaurants do you love? What park did you jog through this morning?
Check Out: @CC2theJ is run by Chris Johnson: a middle school math teacher by day and Spartan Ninja Warrior by night!
6.) Access Teacher Resources
Many users with Teachers-Pay-Teachers (TPT) accounts utilize Instagram to share their lessons and activities. This is a great way to stay up to date with your favorite accounts and you can often access exclusive discount codes.
Check Out: @TeachersPayTeachers currently has over one hundred thousand followers!
7.) Promote Your Club/Organization/School
Innovative school's use Instagram to celebrate all of the wonderful things that their students are doing both in school and in the community. Instagram is a great way to promote fundraisers, field trips, and sporting events.
Check Out: Xavier High School in New York (@XavierHS) uses IG promote their students and their school.
by Anthony Persico
Anthony is the content crafter and head educator for MashUp Math. You can often find me happily developing animated math lessons to share on my YouTube channel. Or spending way too much time at the gym or playing on my phone.